‘I am in awe of Lorna Goodison’s myriad talents—award-winning poet, memoirist, writer of short stories as well as sensuous visual artist, she is here revealed as a consummate essayist. In Redemption Ground all her skills shine bright—no pomp, no fuss, just magic.’—Margaret Busby
In her first-ever collection of essays, poet and novelist Lorna Goodison interweaves the personal and political to explore themes that have occupied her working life: her love of poetry and the arts, colonialism and its legacy, racism and social justice, authenticity, and the enduring power of friendship.
Taking her title from one of Kingston’s oldest markets, a historic meeting place that was almost destroyed by fire, she introduces us to a vivid cast of characters and remembers moments of epiphany—in a cinema in Jamaica, at New York’s Bottom Line club, and as she searched for a black hairdresser in Paris and drank tea in London’s Marylebone High Street.
Enlightening and entertaining, these essays explore not only daily challenges but also the compassion that enables us to rise above them. Goodison’s poet’s eye, profound vision and glorious combination of metaphysical and post-colonial sensibilities confirm her as a major figure in world literature.
The chapters on specific writers reminded me of my favourite lectures from university, when someone fascinating gently opened a door on new literature and walked through it with me. Goodison does this over and over again throughout Redemption Ground - an excellent read in its own right that also acts as a gateway to more books, poems and writers.
I have rarely enjoyed a collection of essays this much. Brimming with poetry, Lorna has put together a collection that transcends her personal life and reflects the current and past state of race relations, that speaks to the intersectionality of Black women’s experiences, and that examines the legacies of our collective past. A masterpiece. A must-read.
Redemption Ground’s blend of memoir, sharp cultural commentary and ruminations on Goodison’s muses, literary and otherwise… builds a picture of the influences and experiences that make a great writer as she gradually pieces together the fragments that formed her life as a boundary-breaking, troublemaking poet.
A beautiful book... absolutely splendid.
Jenni Murray, Woman’s Hour, BBC Radio 4
Lorna Goodison writes lyrically and decisively. Redemption Ground absolutely blew me away... it is quite extraordinary, like an arrow in the heart.
Jo Good, BBC Radio London
EC Reads, bookstagrammer and bookseller
8 July 2020
Redemption Ground is a collection of essays from Lorna Goodison, writer, artist and Poet Laureate of Jamaica, exploring a whole host of different themes - from her love & knowledge of poetry, to colonialism, racism & social justice, to the importance of friendship & creative support, all woven through a mixture of the author’s recollections and literary criticism.
The subtitle is ‘Essays and Adventures’ which is a perfect description. There are personal anecdotes - showing up to a party for Laurence Olivier’s son long after it had finished, searching for a black hairdresser in Paris, being moved by A Taste of Honey in a cinema in Jamaica - alongside explorations of Nadine Gordimer, John Keats, Derek Walcott, William Wordsworth.
There’s a particularly wonderful chapter called ‘Some poems that made me’, that introduced me to a whole load of new writers and poems, and ends with this paragraph: ‘So I really ended up writing the poems that I wanted to read, and writing them in a way that sounds more like the language I use when I quarrel with myself, or when I lament, praise, pray and console myself and hopefully others. A friend of mine once said that the poetry I have written can be grouped into two categories: poems about love, and poems about justice. That is probably true, and of this I am certain: I intend to keep praying for the open ear, in order to hear them if and when they come.’
Redemption Ground also contains some of Goodison’s own poetry, including a poem about Sandra Bland in a later chapter simply titled ‘Racism.’ The chapters on specific writers reminded me of my favourite lectures from university, when someone fascinating gently opened a door on new literature and walked through it with me. Goodison does this over and over again throughout Redemption Ground - an excellent read in its own right that also acts as a gateway to more books, poems and writers.
Both as a reader and as an academic, I have come across some literary works that just felt so monumental, that I’ve had trouble finding the right words to review those works without feeling preposterous - Lorna Goodison’s work is part of those texts. But here’s an attempt at a review.
Poet Laureate of Jamaica and global literary icon, Lorna Goodison doesn’t really need much of an introduction, and neither does her latest book and only essay collection ‘Redemption Ground’.
The essays, while deeply personal, feel at once individual and universal. They give us what feels like an almost audacious glimpse into Lorna’s life in particular, but also into Black women’s lives in general.
The essays are full of laughter and pain, hope and disappointment, love and loss. They are at once immediately post-colonial and undeniably current. They speak to the past as well as to the present.
I have rarely enjoyed a collection of essays this much. Brimming with poetry, Lorna has put together a collection that transcends her personal life and reflects the current and past state of race relations, that speaks to the intersectionality of Black women’s experiences, and that examines the legacies of our collective past. ‘Redemption Ground’ immortalises Lorna’s generation of women writers of African descent- a generation that finds itself in-between civil rights movements and supposedly ‘post-racial’ societies.
‘Redemption Ground’ is, quite simply, a masterpiece. A must-read.
These were my final non-fiction reads of 2019 and I don’t think I could’ve chosen better.
In Redemption Ground*(gifted), Poet Laureate of Jamaica, Lorna Goodison discusses poetry, the arts, religion, the legacy of colonialism, her writing journey and, in particular, her intentions when writing, a favourite quote relating to this being: “…as a Caribbean writer it is my job to imagine and keep reimagining the past and the future into being, so that the best of what was lost might exist again in future”.
To read this selection of essays is to be given a detailed glimpse into her life and its many adventures and encounters and it was such an enjoyable reading experience.
I was already intending to read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings so it was a happy coincidence that, at the end of Redemption Ground, Lorna Goodison recounts one such encounter with Maya Angelou herself.
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is one of those books I’d been meaning to read for such a long time and I’m so glad I finally did, so much so that one of my reading goals for 2020 is to read the other 5 books that make up Maya Angelou’s autobiography. If you’ve read any of them, do you have a favourite?
*Huge thank you to @myriad_editions for the gifted copy of Redemption Ground)